New songwriters can be forgiven for thinking that there must be a right way and a wrong way to assemble a song. When we talk about songwriting process, there tends to be a belief that you should start with a certain element of a song (the lyrics, or the chords, or perhaps the melody) and then follow a set of steps to come up with the entire song.
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But hopefully you know that songwriting doesn’t usually work that way. While I do advocate purposely starting with one particular element as a point of focus, that’s not at all to say that you must then follow a prescribed set of steps in order to complete the song.
For example, I love the melody-first method of writing. And as you likely know, I’ve written eBooks that give ideas for lyrics-first processes, as well as steps for writing a chords-first song.
But the main benefit of those suggestions is that they allow you to put your attention on one particular song component as a starting point to gather ideas. Once you get going with your song, how you proceed from that opening step can be more or less up to you.
For most songwriters, a song starts with whatever musical idea pops into your mind. For some, that might be a chorus hook. For others, there could be a bit of lyric that’s bouncing around in your musical mind.
Or you might have found a particular chord sequence to be the bit you want to fashion into something longer. Whatever it is, there is no wrong way to start a song.
There’s also no need to worry about in what order a song comes together. You might work out the chorus first, and then turn your attention to the verse. I knew a songwriter once you wrote a verse, then changed his mind and made that verse the bridge, composing something entirely new for the front end of his song.
About the Songwriting Process
If you feel compelled to ask an experienced songwriter what their favourite process is, be prepared to hear them tell you that they don’t have any one particular method they use or favour.
The reason that most songwriters use a large variety of processes is that a good song isn’t about the process. It’s more about this: each time you add an idea to an existing one, you as the songwriter have to assess how it’s fitting. Does the new bit you just composed work well with what you’ve already composed?
And as you work, you’ll keep editing and changing what you’ve written until you feel that it’s finished.
That may not seem satisfactory to those of you who feel that there must be a best way to get the job done. If you feel that way, always remember this: the finished song gets presented to the audience in a particular order. How it gets to that order has very little to do with the quality of the finished song.
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